Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Yet more vacation photos

Although it was cold, I highly recommend visiting France in November – the few tourists there were were French, and although a lot of stuff was closed, what was open didn’t have any lines. We went through the caves at Lascaux and only had about 8 people in the group with us.

We got there before the caves opened and debated if we wanted to skip it or not, but it wasn’t like we could easily come back another day, so after I took some photos of the foggy forest, we drove back into the town and had breakfast.

Foggy morning in Lascaux

Fog and spiderwebs

The funny thing about the Lascaux caves is that it’s not really the cave – it’s a set that was built in the 1960’s because the real paintings were being destroyed by people being in the cave with them; which is why I was really surprised that they wouldn’t let me take photos even if I promised not to use a flash. It was an interesting tour, and then we went into the next town to see another cave.

This whole area of France is full of cave paintings and prehistoric findings. I guess the Neanderthals found it as pleasant a place as modern people do. What was really, well, funny for lack of a better word was that every single gift shop in the area had books about evolution (which makes sense given that the caves were painted during prehistoric times) – in the US, if you even mention evolution or Darwin you run the risk of some jackass running at you and beating you about the head and shoulders with a Bible (or a stick – whichever they have closest).

Of course, the museum of prehistory was closed for the winter, but we still got a good shot of the Neanderthal statue in the town of Les Eyzies de Tayac, which is a very pretty place. We also had some fantastic cassoulet at a roadside eatery while we were waiting for the second cave to open.

Neanderthal statue

River View

On the way to the second cave, we saw this guy:

Plastic Wrapped T Rex

Because no vacation is complete without a T Rex wrapped in garbage bags.

Filed under: Nikon, Non-Work, Photos, travel, , , , , , ,

And the days keep slipping by.

 Part of the problem of being totally unemployed with no work prospects coming down the pipe is inertia – seems that the less I have to do, the less I’m able to do. I sink into a sort of slug-like state where it’s a Herculean effort just to haul myself up off the couch at all, and going to the gym feels like a grueling expedition to some far-off place.

When there’s work, I get a lot of stuff done because I know I only have the one day (or two days) to squeeze in everything – I get up, get moving and start going down the list of stuff (gym, laundry, projects, etc…)

Since my immediate future is a blank slate of nothing there’s no urgency to do anything. That, and I’m broke.

Well, not completely broke yet, but unemployment are dragging their feet about cutting me a check so I can’t even go out and do anything that costs any money (a great source of amusement which costs money is hanging out in Z-list celeb infested holes on weeknights. It’s way more entertaining – in a train wrecky kind of way – than anything that’s on TV. Really, now. Who raises these people? Wolves?). I’ve got some movie passes to some theaters, but everything I want to see is playing somewhere that doesn’t take the passes I bought at Universal the last time I worked there. Dammit.

At some point the awards season screenings will start, but I’m not even sure how many of those I’m going to care about enough to haul my ass outside.

I’d start squawking about a deal between the writers and the producers needing to happen, but honestly at this point it doesn’t matter – by now just about everyone’s scrapped the remainder of the season (it’s just a 4th quarter loss, after all), so I, at least, am completely fucked and not in a happy way.

Speaking of fucked in a happy way, the only romantic prospect on the horizon is a guy who… get ready for it… is in jail for DUI.

Him: “Can I call you when I get out of jail?”

Me: (heavy sigh) “Sure, why not?”

Friend (after hearing this): “Are you insane? He’s a drunk!”

Me: “Yeah, but he’s got all his teeth. That counts for something, right?”

On the vacation recap, the next couple of days consist of us getting hopelessly lost and swearing a lot. Someone – and I think it might have been me – actually burst into tears at one point.

Here’s some photos:

This was the first sunny day of the trip at the Chateau Chenonceau

Clouds above Chenonceau

View of Chateau Chenonceau

This is the town of Montrichard. Everything was closed because it was lunchtime in November.

Montrichard was closed

Montrichard Fountain

Montrichard Roses

On the bright side, I just did all my holiday shopping by ordering prints off Flickr.

Filed under: Nikon, Non-Work, Photos, travel, , , , , , , , , , ,

It worked! I slept until 6 am.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve been dead tired by 8pm (not normal end-of-the-day tired, either. Dead dog can’t stay awake one more second tired) and have been waking up at around 3:30 am. Since I refuse to get out of bed that early on general principles, I’ve been tossing and turning until the morning news comes on. For some reason once the a.m. news is on I feel okay getting up and puttering around before having to take a nap at noon in order to stay awake until 8 pm.

Dammit.

But yesterday morning, tired of freezing my ass off, I called the gas company and used the magic words: “I smell gas when I try to light my heater”.

They promised to have someone over that day, which I suppose is technically true – the guy finally came at 11:30 pm and lit the heater in about 45 seconds, but the really important thing was that I managed to stay awake late enough that I slept until 6 am.

Hooray! We’ll see how late I can stay up tonight. I may go see a movie, but there’s not that much playing right now at any theater I can get into for free, so I may just stay home and watch old episodes of The Simpsons.

Anyways, more about the trip:

We’d flown into De Gaulle (which is north of the city), but since were were driving south and anything involving a car and Paris is really best avoided altogether, we picked the car up at Orly – because of the transit strike, it took us a couple of hours to get there from our hotel (only one train out of 10 was running, so we sat on on the subway platform for about an hour).

If you’ve never seen it, Orly is easily the ugliest airport I’ve ever seen – think Soviet era block construction with a faded, pigeon-splattered facade that’s seen better days. I was afraid to take a photo in case the French were as hysterical about photos in airports as we are. There were hoards of angry-looking cops everywhere, so I decided not to chance it.

After a quick trip into the terminal for a cup of coffee, we got our car (which took well over an hour due to some confusion) and headed out.

Of course, as soon as I got behind the wheel of the first stick shift I’ve driven in years it started to pour rain, and we were unable to figure out how to turn on the windshield wipers – the car’s manual didn’t help as it was written in French, so I ended up just having to hit the washer button every 15 seconds until I accidentally turned on the wipers (and then couldn’t figure out how to turn them off once the rain stopped, of course).

Once we managed to get on the big highway, we got to Orleans pretty quickly and then we decided to get out, walk around and have lunch.

Orleans’ old city (near the cathedral which seems to be the main tourist draw) is really cute, and even though it was pouring (I got completely soaked) it was still very charming:

Courtyard

Since everything was closed, we headed out and this time we stayed off the superhighway and drove on the back roads, which was a very good call since we stumbled upon a town called Beaugency.

Church tower

Beaugency

We braved the rain, took some photos and found an open bakery where we loaded up on bread, but I couldn’t find any coffee – just about everything was closing for lunch, which hadn’t been a problem in Paris because so much there stays open. Somewhere in the back of my mind I’d had an idea that it wouldn’t be like that in the smaller towns, but I hadn’t given it much thought and now it was coming back to haunt me.

After getting completely lost on the unmarked backroads, we pulled into the town of Blois and once again got lost – we’d called ahead for a room in a hotel that one of the guidebooks recommended, but when we got to Blois the ‘confuse the invaders’ street plan had us driving around in circles for the better part of an hour – we saw the hotel once, but couldn’t get to it due to the one way streets, so we stayed in another hotel that was run by a very nice man who pointed us towards a laundromat so we could wash some clothes.

Afterwards, we went out to a really nice place for dinner and I ate everything the chef recommended (all of it came from the surrounding area and was delicious).

In the morning, we went to see the chateau in Blois since my travelling companions wanted to see castles (I’m fairly indifferent to them. I’ve been to Europe before and my attitude towards castles is that since I’ve seen one, I’ve very likely seen them all), and I took some photos of the exuberant decor inside and the postcard view of the old city:

View over Blois

View of Blois

King's Bedroom

We then headed towards the day’s next castle, which is where I’ll pick up next post

Filed under: Non-Work, Off-Topic, Photos, travel, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Weekends mean nothing to me now.

Since I’m currently unemployed between projects, the whole “Saturday/Sunday off ” thing is totally meaningless – every day is Saturday now.

What I’ve been dealing with during my endless string of Saturdays is the suitcase explosion in the living room and the fact that I’m really, really cold.

I don’t mean that I’m colder than I was in France – I mean that my house has no heat because apparently I’m too dumb to light the pilot light on my heater. It’s got this complicated little mechanism where one has to turn the gas on and then hold a button in while shoving a match into a teeny hole and hoping desperately that the pilot light will somehow come on (“Ooog see fire! Fire good!”) and then giving up once fire does not appear after repeated attempts and the room begins to smell like gas – although I’m certain that I’d be able to keep warm were I to simply create a bonfire out of the suitcase flotsam that’s currently covering the living room.

I’m saving all my receipts in the hope that somehow I’ll be able to write the trip off on my taxes.

Of course we knew about the transportation strike before we left, but I think all of us were hoping that it would be over before we landed – no such luck. When we landed at the airport, we had to wait 45 minutes for the airport bus to take us to a city train station that was kind of near our hotel, and then taxi it the rest of the way.

One thing I’d forgotten about Europeans is that they don’t line up – they just crowd around and shove each other. I will never understand this, but I’m really good at shoving people without being too obvious about it (an important skill when the producer’s having a conversation in the only doorway into the set and I’ve got a 60 lb. light on my shoulder that’s hotter than the surface of the sun), so we got on the first bus out and managed to arrive at our hotel in about the same amount of time it would have taken had we gotten on the train.

Our first night in Paris, we just walked across the street from the hotel and grabbed dinner at a cafe which was really smoke filled (another thing I’d forgotten about Europe) but had good food. With the exchange rate, dinner cost approximately $17,000. Each.

Because of the transportation strike, we were pretty much limited to stuff in the center of the city – there was some train service, but it was unpredictable and the lines were being shut down with very little notice. I, for one, didn’t want to get stuck in some far-flung corner of the city when the subway line went down and have to pay a small fortune to take a taxi back to the hotel.

Our hotel was on the left bank near the Luxembourg gardens, which seemed fairly central when I booked it, but when faced with the whole walking thing, I really wish I’d been able to afford something even closer to the center of the city.

Oh, well.

The advantages of travelling in the off-season were the lack of huge lines. We got into the Louvre right away, although I skipped the paintings, which I’d seen before and went straight to the old fortress that’s on the lower level.

Louvre

So. Cool.

Later the same night, we went up the Eiffel Tower – when we got up to the top, there was freezing rain and the wind was howling around us. I stayed in the lee of the elevator shaft, but still managed to get some great photos before my hands stopped working because of the cold:
Night cityscape

The blue beam was coming from the tower itself – it rotated around, and I’m still not sure why, but the tower was definitely the highlight of Paris for me. The last time I was in Paris, it was the summertime and it was so crowded with tourists that you had to wait hours to go up, so I didn’t get to go.

Eiffel Tower

Although I had a good time, I still stand by my statement that I can take or leave Paris. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that it’s, well, it’s a large city – it’s crowded and dirty and the stairwells all smell like piss. Just like LA, just like New York, just like Berlin, just like London.

Everyone was really nice, though, and they were very understanding about my atrocious French.  We had some wonderful hot chocolate on the Ile St. Louis (someone at work had recommended Angelina, but the place we found had better hot chocolate and now I can’t remember the name of it although were I there I’d be able to find it again just by following the smell), and I ate a bunch of stuff I really shouldn’t have and didn’t gain any weight because I was walking 50 miles a day.

On Monday morning, we packed up and headed out to pick up the car and start driving south – which is where I’ll pick up tomorrow (or Monday, depending on how lazy I’m feeling), since this is getting a bit long.

Filed under: Non-Work, travel, , , , , , , , , , ,

If it’s 1 am where I was, what day is it where I am now?

I’m back, I had a great time but right now I’m incredibly tired.

I have three gigs of photos (and that’s just the digital stuff – I won’t get the film back for a few days) to go through, but all I’m going to try to get done today is laundry. Plus, I have to eat some vegetables – I think my cholesterol’s gone up 100 points in the past 10 days.

As much time as I spend bitching about my fucked up sleep schedule, this time it worked to my advantage – I adjusted to the time change really quickly, so I’m hoping today is the only day I’ll only feel like boiled gym socks.

In brief because my brain’s not really working right now:

Of course, when we were in Paris, there was a transit workers strike, so I missed some stuff I’d wanted to see (also because things were opening late and closing early) and it took us three hours to get from our hotel near the Luxembourg Garden to Orly airport (which was where we picked up the car).

Speaking of cars, we didn’t get one with an onboard navigation system because we thought we’d be fine with a map. Oh, how wrong we were. I don’t think any of us are going to make that mistake again – and probably wouldn’t have made that choice in the first place if someone had warned us in advance that in some of the smaller towns in France there aren’t any street signs. I’m sure this made good sense in the past (confuse the hell out of the invaders and they might just give up and go home), but now it’s just annoying. I’m not going to take over – I just want lunch.

Leaning out over the battlements of a medieval castle and yelling “I fart in your general direction!” is exactly as much fun as I’d imagined.

I can’t. eat. any. more. bread.

Oh, and because I know there’s one picture everyone’s dying to see:

Paris Couch

More later, when I feel more like a human being.

Filed under: Non-Work, , , , ,

Fine, I’ll look on the damn bright side.

Although I don’t know how much of this list is optimism and how much is schadenfreude, but sometimes you just have to take what you can get.

Especially from me.

Here ya go:

1) At least I don’t live in the Western San Fernando Valley – if you think I’m whining about the heat now

2) At least I’m not a “pro-family” US Senator with a horrible voting record on gay rights who got popped (pun intended) for hitting on a male cop in an airport restroom (insert derisive snicker). Now there’s a guy with problems.

3) The cat has only thrown up one hairball this week. This is a vast improvement over last week, when she threw up about ten thousand hairballs and kindly left most of them right where I’d step in them during night-time trips to the loo.

4) The maintenance guy has switched from Eddie Money to the Eagles. I don’t really care for the Eagles much, but it’s a change and I have to take what I can get, right?

4) I’m working Friday, but it’s on a stage that’s air-conditioned to the point of qualifying as a meat locker with a crew of folks who, if I start acting bitchy, will just throw something at me and not take it personally. Yay!

5) The MRI for the right knee came back, and besides a bit of fluid, everything is normal. No torn anything, no weird tumors.

And, just for the record, I don’t hate France – I love France. Honestly, I can take or leave Paris, but the south of France is where I really fell in love with the country and the people (who were wonderful everywhere I went, and very patient with my atrocious French), even though every time I go there I gain about three metric tons from eating all the delicious food and drinking gallons of the local vin ordinaire.

Whenever I complain about the excess pounds, whoever I’m talking to gives that dismissive hand wave that only the French can do really well and says “Oh, there is always time to diet later. Here, have another croissant”.

Why, merci. Don’t mind if I do.

Stupid France and their stupid wonderful food and stupid delicious wine and cheese (which is so totally worth eating) and nice people and beautiful light and strong coffee.

Mmmm.. France. I need to go there right now.
But I can’t go to France any time soon because today I lashed out with Mr. Debit Card and bought a Nikon D40.

I blame Nezza for this.

Originally, I had only thought of buying the D80, which is WAY outside my price range, so I’d just looked at them, sighed wistfully and hoped that the DSLR fairies would someday leave one under my pillow if I were very, very good indeed, and moved on. Then, when Nezza mentioned a D40, I looked at it and thought it wasn’t so bad, so when I went by Samy’s Camera today to buy film for my ancient SLR, I saw the sale price on the D40 and before I knew it, I was walking out the door with one.

I hope you’re happy, Nezza.

Now I have a camera but I can’t make an impulse ticket purchase to Paris, where I’d jump on the train and go somewhere with fatty food and stunning beaches and cheap wine and fabulously attractive locals whom I’d probably ignore completely due to my being too busy stuffing my face.

Who am I kidding… Once I factor in the lost work, that would cost about a bazillion times more than a camera.

Unfortunately, the camera doesn’t use normal batteries, so I couldn’t just take it out of the box and start shooting (of course, there was a really awesome couch on the way home), but once it gets charged I’m going to try it out.

And, of course, if I don’t like it I’m going to muster all of my imaginary PMS anger and return it.

Filed under: camera, couches, life in LA, Nikon, Non-Work, Off-Topic, overspending, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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